Gaza: USAID freeze came after agreement was reached

[ 14/08/2011 – 10:06 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)– Tahir al-Nono, spokesman for the government in Gaza, expressed shock after the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) declared freezing operations in the Gaza Strip after an auditing agreement had already been reached with the organizations it funds.

An official from USAID told media outlets that Hamas had been auditing the monetary affairs of NGOs funded by it and therefore decided to freeze operations in the Strip.

“The government had not been informed of the USAID’s decision, and the matter was confined to what was disseminated by the media on Friday. It raises large question marks, especially because it came just a day after an agreement was reached on a mechanism for financial auditing on the organizations’ work.”

He said the crisis came after some of the organizations objected to allowing the Interior Ministry to audit them.

He added that international efforts were made after the International Medical Corps was shut down after refusing to deal with the Interior Ministry, and an agreement was made where the government reserved the legal right to audit the organizations’ operations.

We were surprised by statements from one USAID official on Friday and how it came after the agreement, Nono said.

“We have reservations on several points in the official’s statement, including that he spoke about ‘meddling’ by Hamas in its operations,” Nono said, emphasizing that Hamas had no involvment, but rather it was the government applying its law.

“We are only auditing funds. Those with monetary violations are the ones concerned about auditing. And USAID alone has taken this position. The question is why does it fear auditing?”

The fact that some of the organizations objected to government auditing because of the split reflects that their operations are political and not humanitarian, he went on to say.

In a separate statement, Prof. Abdul-Sattar Qassem, Professor of Political Sciences at Al-Najah University in the West Bank confirmed the necessity for the government to audit foreign organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, warning that many organizations are not present for the interest of Palestine, regardless if they provide aid at times.

He told the PIC that most of the operations funded by USAID come to achieve political objectives and ensure that the Palestinians remain dependent on foreign aid. Some of the funding goes to parties that become agents for the US in the region, he said.

Qassem also emphasized the importance of maintaining security, finances, and politics in the Gaza Strip, as the enclave is not under actual occupation but rather Palestinian sovereignty, whether or not the government declares it.

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